Here the latest on our “Border Control Force” effort is stopping children from refugees being taken out of their camps by nuns.
“A program run by a group of Catholic nuns that took children in immigration detention on outings has been deemed “not appropriate” by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
The Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project (BASP), run by the Brigidine Sisters, took groups of children from the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) in Broadmeadows out into the community for supervised day trips.
Sister Brigid Arthur said the program had run for four years until it was stopped by Australian Border Force (ABF) “about six months ago”.
“[We’d] go to the Collingwood Children’s Farm, go to the zoo occasionally, out to adventure playgrounds,” Sister Brigid told 774 ABC Melbourne’s Jon Faine.
“Anything that actually can entertain the kids and give them some stimulation.”
The program also included occasional day trips for adults in immigration detention.
Sister Brigid said there were never any incidents or escape attempts on the outings.
“The outings were amazingly free from any incident. The people were so pleased to be out and about,” she said.
“Most of the kids don’t want to go with the officers, who are seen to be ‘security’ people.”
Children in detention ‘need stimulation’
Sister Brigid said children in particular become very bored when held in detention.
“Kids need a lot of stimulation,” she said.
Some would say it’s a form of torture to have [the children] cooped up.Senator John Madigan
“Just having other kids to play with, having things to do that are outside the norm … it’s so absolutely important for the welfare of these kids.”
Sister Brigid said one little girl fell in love with a goat at the Collingwood Children’s Farm.
“That was a magical day. We’d gone to the Collingwood Children’s Farm and that little girl was very quiet.
“Then when we went around to different animals she was a bit excited, but when we got to the goat, she just loved that goat.
“She just fell in love with that goat.”
Sister Brigid said detention was starting to have a negative impact on the 17 children held at MITA.
She said she had talked to an “incredibly caring” parent of a three-year-old boy held in detention who was concerned at changes they were seeing in their child.
“We don’t know what to do with him, he just gets so angry these days,” she recalled the parent as saying.
Rules becoming ‘more draconian under guise of security’
Victorian senator John Madigan said his office had placed a call to Mr Dutton’s office “to seek clarification” on the status of the Brigidine Sisters’ project.
“I’m totally bewildered … as to what the hell is happening here,” Senator Madigan said.
He said he could not understand what problem could be with taking children out of the detention centre for excursions to places like the Collingwood Children’s Farm.
“Some would say it’s a form of torture to have them cooped up,” the senator said.
Sister Brigid said the rules at the detention centre were becoming “more draconian … under the guise of security”.